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Nurseries and childminders will be required to teach children ‘fundamental British values’

Childcare providers will have their funding withdrawn if they do not ‘actively promote fundamental British values’, according to a new policy being drafted by the Department for Education.

The British values proposal will be consulted on as part of the changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage and the General Childcare Register.

The announcement was made as part of the response to the Government's Childminder Agency consultation, stating that local authorities will be given the power to withdraw early education funding from providers which fail to promote British values. Fundamental British values include democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs according to the Department for Education (DfE).

The response to the Childminder Agency consultation will also give local authorities the power to withdraw funding from nurseries and childminders who teach creationism as a valid scientific theory.

Childcare providers currently receive funding so they can give 15 hours of free childcare to all three and four-year-olds and to disadvantaged two-year-olds.

Early Education's chief executive, Beatrice Merrick expressed concern over the policy and warned: “The idea of distinctive British values is quite elusive for any age group and it would be hard to claim that there is a British monopoly on any of the values we might be talking about.

“Using such language is dangerous in implying we are somehow morally superior to other nations and cultures. Surely that isn't the message we want to teach our youngest children?”

She believes the best way “to help children resist extremist views or challenge views such as creationism is to teach them to think critically and become independent learners, which is fundamental to the Characteristics of Effective Learning and Teaching embedded in the EYFS. Helping children develop good social skills will also help as isolated individuals are more vulnerable to the techniques often used by radicalising groups.”

“Teaching values to young children is already contained in the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum through the prime curriculum area of Personal Social and Emotional Development and the specific area of Understanding the World which helps them learn about similarities and differences between individuals and between communities. Children are taught to respect and value difference, to learn to share and behave well to others.”

The decision to take funding away from nurseries promoting creationist beliefs was triggered by objections from organisations including the British Humanist Association (BHA) expressing opposition to early education funding going to providers which they claim promote extremist views or teach creationism as scientific fact.

The BHA claimed it found 84 nurseries had been receiving funding in spite of the BHA having concerns about evolution – and a further seven where there have been concerns about extremism.

Andrew Copson, BHA’s chief executive said the BHA welcomed “Nicky Morgan’s decision to preclude creationist and extremist schools from receiving state funding through their nurseries” and added: “It is vital that every young person receives a broad and balanced education including teaching evolution as the only evidence-based view of how life came to be.”

September 2014